Prevalence of Mental Disorders Among Meth Users
N-methyl amphetamine, more commonly known by its street name “meth,” is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that is used for recreational purposes. It is a white crystalline substance that is sometimes taken orally, but is mostly smoked, inhaled, or injected into the veins.
Since the biochemical actions of meth markedly increases the level of dopamine — the neurotransmitter responsible for triggering motivation, pleasure and various functions — there is an increased risk of witnessing impairment of memory, learning, cognitive-behavioral skills, etc. due to persistent use of meth.
Therefore, meth users also experience co-occurring mental disorders. Long-time meth users have the risk of experiencing mental health issues for lifetime. The addiction to meth can exacerbate the symptoms of mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, etc. By consistently abusing meth, users stand an increased risk of witnessing structural and functional changes in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory. This increases their vulnerability to cognitive and emotional problems.
Although the side effects of meth use are well documented, its relationship to mental illness is still not proven. Meth abuse has been associated with several mental illnesses, such as depression and meth-induced psychosis. It is also linked to the development of paranoia, sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Meth and psychosis
Meth users sometimes run the risk of being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia because psychosis is the hallmark of both schizophrenia and meth-induced psychosis. Moreover, there are some external signs that overlap in case of both schizophrenia and meth-induced psychosis. Among individuals with schizophrenia using meth, the likelihood of aggravation of their psychosis and worsening of the symptoms due to meth runs high.
Therefore, it is important to understand that psychosis induced by meth and psychosis experienced by individuals with schizophrenia are two different conditions. Despite the difference, one of the essential points to note is that the underlying genetic vulnerability links both schizophrenia and meth-induced psychosis.
On the one hand the exposure to meth leads to the development of psychosis-type symptoms, on the other hand people suffering from meth-induced psychosis stand an increased risk to develop a primary psychosis-like syndrome. Additionally, meth-induced psychosis displays negative and positive psychotic syndromes:
• Positive syndromes entail persecutory delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, and incoherent speech.
• Negative syndromes entail speech poverty, psychomotor retardation and emotional blunting.
Furthermore, the psychotic impact of meth use can persist even after the individual has quit meth.
Meth and depression
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has highlighted that about 20 percent of individuals who abuse substance also have an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression. When a person addicted to meth is also suffering from depression, they oftentimes remain unaware of its symptoms due to the similarity between the overwhelming feeling of sadness. Depression among meth users is a common phenomenon. Some studies suggest that users abusing meth intravenously report more depressive symptoms compared to the users who snort or smoke the drug.
Another reason behind the synergy between meth and depression is that meth abuse can severely alter dopamine activity in the brain. When meth abuse aggravates to a point that the user has to have the drug to feel alive, it is very likely that he or she is experiencing anhedonia, a condition wherein dopamine function is impaired to such an extent that he or she cannot experience pleasure.
Moreover, some traits of depression, such as isolation and lack of motivation, can significantly dissuade individuals from seeking help. If left unaddressed, these individuals run the risk of exacerbating self-harming and suicidal behaviors.
Meth and anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders are the other prevalent mental illnesses often seen alongside the symptoms of meth abuse, especially during the period of drug use and withdrawal. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) are the commonly observed anxiety disorders with meth addiction. These conditions can last for years even if the individual has ceased taking the drug.
Individuals with this form of co-occurring diseases or dual diagnosis have a hard time getting help and sticking to sobriety. Research has shown that individuals with this comorbidity are more likely to struggle with treatment adherence and have more unfavorable treatment outcomes than the meth users without an anxiety disorder. Similarly, the rate of suicide is higher among meth users with anxiety disorder than among individuals with only meth addiction.
Lastly, treating the dual diagnosis of meth addiction and anxiety disorders can be counterproductive if the individual is treated with benzodiazepines. While benzodiazepines have yielded success in treating anxiety disorders, meth users run the risk of developing an addiction to benzodiazepines.
Take the decision to seek help
The comorbidity of meth addiction and mental disorders is a complicated condition. Since individuals with co-occurring disorders experience greater unemployment rates, arrests, emergency room (ER) visits, etc., it becomes an arduous task to lead a fulfilling life for them. With the availability of specialized dual diagnosis treatment facilities, one can address both co-occurring disorders that improves the rate of recovery and reduces the chances of relapse in the long run.
Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who has fallen prey to substance abuse and mental disorders. If a loved one requires treatment for dual diagnosis, you can reach out to Sovereign Health of Florida, which offers one of the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in the United States that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866–269–2493 to know more about our dual diagnosis treatment program.